Colorado’s confusing booster advice basically means you decide if you want one
Pitkin County has mobile vaccine clinics set up through weekend
Confusing guidance about COVID-19 booster shots from Gov. Jared Polis and the state of Colorado on Friday prompted questions locally about who exactly is now eligible to receive the extra shot.
But while the eligibility criteria can seem complicated on paper, in practice what the state and federal authorities are essentially saying is that anyone who thinks they need a booster dose should get one, provided enough time has passed since their initial doses or doses, said Carly Senst, Pitkin County’s vaccine coordinator.
“It’s confusing,” Senst said Friday. “The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (Food and Drug Administration) guidance allow individuals to gauge their own risk factors. It allows people to make medical decisions for themselves.”
Here’s the rub, though: The approved booster shot criteria doesn’t exactly say that.
Updated CDC guidance recommends Moderna and Pfizer recipients a booster shot six months after the second dose for people 65 years and older, residents of long-term care facilities, people ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions and people ages 18-to-64 who live or work in places where COVID-19 exposure is heightened.
Those 18 and older who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine can get a booster shot no matter their personal circumstances as long as they’ve waited at least two months since the initial immunization.
That’s the official line.
The unofficial line — seemingly echoed in text messages sent Friday to more than 1 million Coloradans including Pitkin County residents — is if you feel like you need a booster shot, go get one, Senst said. And not only that, guidance says you can choose which vaccine booster you want — a so-called “mix and match” option — whether you were first given Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, she said.
No one administering a booster shot is going to quibble with anyone’s reasons for wanting a booster shot, unless they have not waited the prescribed six months for Moderna and Pfizer and two months for Johnson & Johnson, Senst said.
“They’re going to let the individual pick and choose what they need for their own circumstances,” she said. “It allows for more nuanced conversations.”
A third dose of Pfizer or Moderna or a second dose of Johnson & Johnson is safe and effective in building up more antibodies to COVID-19, Senst said.
“There’s no downside to getting an additional dose,” she said.
Polis urged vaccinated Colorado residents to get the booster doses both Thursday night and Friday.
“The data is completely clear and consistent: a third vaccine dose is necessary for stronger and lasting protection against COVID-19,” he said in a release Thursday night. “The Colorado data shows that we need to get our booster shots after six months.”
With approval of Johnson & Johnson and the Moderna boosters on Thursday, “we are ready to booster all Coloradans six months past their second dose,” the governor said in Thursday night’s release.
Polis, who received a booster dose Friday, continued lobbying for the boosters Friday.
“The safe and effective vaccine and now the booster is the ticket to safety and the best way to avoid overwhelming our health care system,” he said in a press release Friday afternoon. “This is an extremely dangerous time for unvaccinated individuals, so go get vaccinated today or get your booster — it could save your life and the lives of those you love.”
Senst said vaccine boosters might need a few days to digest the new guidelines, though boosters should be available throughout the community. Go to https://covid19.pitkincounty.com/ and click on “Get Vaccinated” to find out where boosters are available in Pitkin County.
Free boosters, vaccinations and flu shots will be available at a state mobile van parked Saturday at the Old Snowmass Market, 26 Snowmass Creek Road, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday at the Treehouse Village parking lot, 40 Carriage Way, in Snowmass Village from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Pitkin County public health officials also are making plans to vaccinate 5- to 12-year-olds when vaccine doses are expected to be approved next week, Senst said.